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Internet of Things to be the next ‘ICT disruption’

18 October 2012

The Finnish nation is possibly the most per capita ‘connected’ so it’s not surprising that the shape of future ICT trends is unfolding in that country.

“The next ICT revolution will have a profound impact on our lives and the economy,” goes a recent statement from the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). Ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things are experiencing remarkable growth, and their effects are becoming more and more apparent wherever you look: in housing, transport, energy, security, healthcare, and retail.

The market related to Internet of Things technology and applications is rising annually by 30 percent, and by 2013 it is expected to reach 300 billion euros.

The changes may already be apparent to domestic energy consumers, as remotely readable meters are gradually rolled out by the energy providers, enabling developments such as new pricing models that encourage the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The remote control of machines and devices is experiencing substantial growth and it’s spreading to smaller and smaller appliances. And remote healthcare applications are keeping pace with an ageing global population.

VTT has developed some key technologies for ubiquitous computing, including situation awareness for portable devices, mixed and augmented reality, and advances in interoperability that enable devices from different vendors to share information. In partnership with the University of Tokyo, VTT is also developing uID (universal Identification) technology, which will enable the identification and tracking of individual components and even food products.

VTT research professor Heikki Ailisto says that with uID, information on origin, manufacture, and history can all be attached in the digital world to the most commonplace items over their entire life cycle. A timber plank, for instance, can be tagged with information on which forest the timber was cut from, where it was sawn, how many times it has been painted, and with what paints.

According to Professor Ailisto, over the past century, there have been three “big waves” - as he puts it - in telecommunications technology. First, the telephone connected 500 million places; the mobile phone then connected five billion people, and now the Internet of Things will connect 50 billion devices, machines, and objects. “Objects and packages that do not require an actual data connection can also be named and connected to background systems with the help of identifiers," he claims.

VTT ubiquitous computing applications and basic technology have been developed under the auspices of the OPENS (Open Smart Spaces) programme, the achievements of which include the implementation of the interoperability platform Smart M3. This enables various appliances and objects in the home or office to ‘converse, understand each other and share information.

This interoperability platform, created for devices produced by different manufacturers for a variety of purposes, is based on so-called semantic technology, which defines a common language for all devices and applications. 

Appliances and services can be made a lot smarter for users if they provide ‘situational awareness’. Situation and location awareness has already been put into practice in mobile communications devices and VTT has added a new dimension with developments that enable recognition of the user's activities - is he or she sitting, walking or running; travelling by train, bus, car, or bicycle? In this way users can be offered timely information about the services that are available and most appropriate to them, according to their mode of transport.

One example of interaction technology between man and machine is mixed and augmented reality, an area in which VTT has achieved some significant results. These include motion sensing input devices and 3D cameras for games and practical applications. Mixed and augmented reality as an interface for mobile phones, for example, is only just starting to enter this huge market.

Can technology help us generate a better world, make our everyday lives easier, and enable sustainable growth? VTT certainly thinks so. Take a look at the organisation’s new video “True today or true tomorrow?” which is embedded in this article.

Les Hunt


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